Wednesday 19 September 2018

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Palacious Cabo Raj Bhavan falling ?

 

The sudden blaring of an alarm may wake up the Governor at any time of night from his deep sleep and he will have no option than to rush out of his bedroom, not shouting Eureka Eureka, but practically running out for his life.

This is a risk any governor has to take now for having a privilege of staying in a palacious four-century old Cabo Raj Bhavan in Goa, one of the most envious location found in the country. The monumental building is situated at the extreme end of a narrow cape (known as Cabo in Portuguese) , which has jutted out into the Arabian sea, with estuaries of Mandovi and Zuari rivers on two sides.

Constructed by the Portuguese at a strategic location in 1594, it was further enlarged in 1612. The two storeyed structure is constructed with walls about 70 cm thick, made of laterite blocks in mud mortar. The first floor is made of timber joists and laterite blocks, with lime concrete and floor finish laid over them. The verandah at the first floor, adjacent to the governor's master bedroom, provides uninterrupted view of the sea and the Mormugao harbour across it.

While the coast line and the hill slope of Cabo had been undergoing distress over the past several decades, it suddenly became talk of the town in 1995, when visible cracks occurred in the pavement and the verandah of the building, posing serious danger to the building. Pending detailed investigation report by the UP-based Central Building Research Institute, the government was even planning to shift the governor's residence temporarily.

Though the CBRI report, submitted to the government couple of months ago, rules out the possibility of immediate danger to the building, it suggests all sorts of precautionary measures to save the building from sudden collapse in near future, as the rock on which the building stands has developed cracks from the coastal side and cavities inside the rock.

The report states : "Cracks, which have occurred due to ground subsidence, have passed through the plinth and ground floor of verandah at north-west corner of the building. Along with floor, columns at the outer periphery of the verandah have settled down, resulting in excessive deflection of timber floor and roof. This part of the verandah is not structurally safe. If any further subsidence of ground occurs, rafters of verandah will move down exerting pull on the external walls of master bedroom, which is located on the first floor. Hence, during the preliminary visit itself, it was advised that the master bedroom be not used".

The master bedroom however is still being used, though Goa presently has no governor appointed. The charge is held by Maharashtra governor Dr P C Alexander, who occasionally visits the state. The local PWD authorities have also not installed the alarm, but the order is being placed outside the state. Most of the recommendations, which had to be implemented before monsoons, have also not being brought into action except providing cantilever support to the verandah.

The CBRI experts, who carried out investigations in January last year, have observed that the foot of the hill is directly exposed to the onslaught of sea waves and erosion due to the flow of rivers Mandovi and Zuari, causing failure of sea wall at many locations due to toe erosion. Almost all the buttress walls, retaining walls, sea walls etc have developed some sort of distress in the form of cracks or slight tilting. "It clearly indicates that there is some movement of the slope downwards", state the experts.

These experts also reconfirm the observation made two years ago by Dr N B G Tilak, Director of Project Engineering Geology Operations, Hyderabad, that instability of the slope has caused due to a retaining wall built during Portuguese regime, instead of improving the condition. They have observed distress in the wall, despite a fact that the wall was repaired time and again before and after liberation of Goa. Besides cracks, there are also indications that cavities have been formed below the sea wall.

Based on the recommendations of Dr Manohar in 1966, the PWD engineers had protected part of the coastline, using large size laterite concrete blocks. But remaining part of the coast was left unprotected, which has caused cracks below the floor of verandah, plinth and the black topped ground adjacent to the building, in the area corresponding to the unprotected parts of the coastline.

The CBRI has now recommended to protect the remaining portion of the coastline with artificial armour stones while also filling up the cavities formed below the steps in the sea wall with concrete. But with its execution, caution the experts, changes may take place in the shore line elsewhere, upto 15 kms beyond the Cabo headland, where also lies the Mormugao port of the state.

Remedial measures for the existing sea wall like stitching the cracks, repairing and reconstructing the damaged top portion and opening up weep poles are also being recommended by the CBRI. Though most of the work had to be executed before monsoons, the local irrigation department is still in the process of getting the estimates approved from the government, costing around Rs three crore.

Though actual structure of the governor's palace and historical chapel is still out of danger, movement of a group of persons of vehicles is already being banned to the areas like affected pavement and behind the chapel. Periodical inspections of all walls as well as continuos monitoring of verandah settlement is also being suggested to avoid any kind of disaster. Even the alarm would be installed in such a way that a further deflection even by one cm should be a warning signal.

More than maintenance of the monumental structure, money has been spent till date on investigations and stability analysis, involving reputed firms like DESCON from Mumbai, Central Water and Power Research Station, Pune and now the CBRI. "But will it succeed in saving the palacious structure is still a question mark", states an engineer from the irrigation department, as nature has its own ways which are sometimes beyond the human reach.






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